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South Sudan Vice President starts first Khartoum visit

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Sudan's Vice President Bakri Hassan Saleh (L) welcomes his South Sudan counterpart, Taban Deng Gai (R) upon his arrival at Khartoum airport on August 21, 2016, for an official two-day visit. PHOTO: ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP

Sudan’s Vice President Bakri Hassan Saleh (L) welcomes his South Sudan counterpart, Taban Deng Gai (R) upon his arrival at Khartoum airport on August 21, 2016, for an official two-day visit. PHOTO: ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP

South Sudan’s new Vice President Taban Deng Gai on Sunday started a two-day visit to Khartoum for talks on thorny issues outstanding since Sudan’s north-south split in 2011.

Deng’s first visit to Sudan as vice president comes weeks after he replaced former rebel leader Riek Machar following clashes in Juba that left hundreds dead in July.

“We have received Taban Deng as the first vice president of South Sudan,” Sudan’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Kamal Ismail told reporters at Khartoum airport.

While Khartoum has recognised Deng as South Sudan’s vice president, east Africa’s eight-nation trading and security bloc IGAD, of which Sudan is a member, has yet to formally acknowledge his appointment.

Deng headed straight for meetings with senior Sudanese officials, and he is due to meet President Omar al-Bashir on Monday.

“During his official visit, he will hold talks on several bilateral and regional issues,” Ismail said.

Deng is accompanied by South Sudan’s defence and energy ministers as well as senior intelligence officials from Juba.

After a 1983-2005 civil war, the mainly Christian south of Sudan split from the Muslim north on July 9, 2011, following a referendum six months earlier.

Armed revolts on both sides of the border, however, have soured relations between their two governments.

Key issues include the status of the Khartoum-occupied border district of Abyei and Juba’s payments for the use of an oil export pipeline through Sudan.

In June, the South Sudan ministers of foreign affairs, oil and the interior also held talks in Khartoum on oil and border issues.

South Sudan’s oil production has virtually ground to a halt since a civil war erupted there in December 2013, when President Salva Kiir accused Machar of plotting a coup.

Machar was later dismissed and replaced by Deng on July 25. On Thursday, an aide to Machar said he had escaped to the Democratic Republic of Congo.


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